Saskia Verbruggen is an experienced animal trainer from the Netherlands, with a long career training marine mammals as well as birds of prey. She founded her own consultancy company Animal Training Roundeurope.
When she started her career, she enjoyed learning to train pinnipeds through positive reinforcement. Saskia shares with us her personal stories of the sea lions she cared for, learning that animals should have a choice in participating or not in a training session.
Saskia talks about the importance of giving animals the option to choose, and using positive reinforcement training, a common way of training with marine mammals, with birds of prey, rewarding them when they cooperate.
She discusses with Sabrina the complexity and quality of the habitats of the zoo she works in, trying to make them as natural as possible. She describes with detail the aviaries, and remarks that a key part for the birds is having different types of habitats, thus promoting optimal welfare.
Saskia shares how they give choice to the birds who participate in the public presentations, they can opt-out if they want, and the educational messages they convey during these flight demonstrations.
Saskia shares some of the challenges of working in a diverse team and highlights how wonderful is to work with people from different backgrounds bringing different strengths to the table and together doing their best for the animals.
Saskia and Sabrina discuss why some facilities do not house or work with certain species when they feel they cannot promote optimal welfare for the animals, and the different ways weight management of the birds, and other animals can and should be approached.
To conclude Saskia shares a wonderful story of Amy, about relationships and bonds with the animals. “As soon as they get more freedom, they are just choosing to come to us. They want to cooperate and love to work with us".
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